Abbott expands formula recall after infant death, Americans want companies to cut ties with Russia and Amazon opens automated Whole Foods in D.C.
Also: Advice for PR pros from a Chicago Tribune journalist.
Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Pratt shared a screenshot of an email from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot asking staff to avoid giving him any more than the bare minimum of information, offering his thoughts on how organizations should navigate relationships with journalists.
Pratt covers the Lightfoot administration and Chicago City Hall for the Tribune.
A colleague sent me this 2020 email from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. I could teach a journalism class about it. pic.twitter.com/ps2GLOK6lE
— Gregory Pratt (@royalpratt) February 28, 2022
Don’t take things personal when they’re good or when they’re bad. Reporting relationships have ups and downs. This was in a period where Mayor Lightfoot was upset with Tribune stories. It happens.
— Gregory Pratt (@royalpratt) February 28, 2022
“For government and public affairs people: Trying to cut off a reporter is generally unproductive,” Pratt writes. “Trying to restrict the information that goes to the biggest newspaper in your area is self sabotage.”
Here are today’s other top stories:
Abbott expands powdered formula recall following infant death
Medical device and health care company Abbott Laboratories is recalling more powdered baby formula product after an infant who was exposed to the formula died, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The infant tested positive for Cronobacter sakazakii, a type of bacteria that can cause sepsis and meningitis.
Abbott’s most recent update about the recall expresses “heartfelt sympathies” to the family of the deceased infant. Earlier this month, Abbott issued its initial recall as the FDA investigated several complaints of illness in babies who had consumed the formula and were diagnosed with either Cronobacter or a type of salmonella.
The Abbott Twitter account has been responding to some frustrated consumers:
Hi Abdul, thanks for your note. We are increasing the production of our Similac formulas by running our manufacturing facilities at maximum capacity. Additionally, we are converting some of our production of other liquid products to Similac where we can.
— Abbott (@AbbottNews) February 28, 2022
We’re very sorry to hear this, Emi. The health and safety of your little one is our top priority and our Similac Team would like to speak with you to learn more. Please call 800-850-7677, Monday-Friday from 8:30am-5pm, EST & reference customer# 04237079.
— Abbott (@AbbottNews) February 25, 2022
Hi Cristian, we encourage all consumers to return recalled product back to us to receive a refund. The fastest way to receive your refund is to take your product back to the retailer where you purchased the product (1/2).
— Abbott (@AbbottNews) February 24, 2022
And the Similac Facebook page posted informational graphics covering FAQs about the recall, writing, “Please know we are deeply sorry for the distress this has caused you and your family.”
What it means: Both of Abbott’s recall statements acknowledge the families of children affected by the contaminated formula, but no general corporate communications have been made to acknowledge the struggle facing parents who now find themselves without their babies’ preferred formula.
This is a good reminder that engaging your audience on social media in the wake of a crisis is a best practice, but not enough on its own. In times of corporate crisis it’s important to show consumers and stakeholders that the company is willing to take action to right its wrongs.
A new report from Morning Consult shows 75% of Americans support companies cutting business ties with Russia and stopping sales of products and services in the country amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Respondents were split on whether they thought companies should temporarily stop conducting business in Russia (36%) or if companies should cut ties permanently (37%).
The report shows Americans widely support the idea of companies taking action in response to the crisis. The most popular suggestions include providing financial assistance to Americans looking to leave Ukraine and providing resources to employees affected by the invasion, followed by donating money to provide humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian people and refugees.
“For companies with business ties in Russia, taking no action isn’t a viable option, as only 4 percent of Americans said brands should keep doing business with Russia and do nothing in response to the invasion of Ukraine,” Morning Consult’s Wesley Case writes.
Download the full report from Morning Consult here.
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Amazon opens first fully automated Whole Foods store
Amazon’s first cashier-less Whole Foods store opened in the Washington, D.C. area this week, complete with Amazon’s palm-recognition technology, sensors under food, hundreds of cameras and deep-learning artificial intelligence (AI) software that analyzes shopping activity to improve the accuracy of operations. and other self-service innovations.
Dilip Kumar, Amazon’s vice president of physical retail and technology, told the NYT that Whole Foods is “another step in its tech expansion into retail stores.”
“We observed areas that caused friction for customers, and we diligently worked backward to figure out ways to alleviate that friction,” Kumar said. “We’ve always noticed that customers didn’t like standing in checkout lines. It’s not the most productive use of their time, which is how we came up with the idea to build Just Walk Out.”
Why it matters: AI technology has been around in some form or another for at least the 1980s, but companies have been hesitant to use the systems to automate customer-facing processes—Orwell’s “1984,” anyone?
Amazon is no stranger to innovation, and Kumar’s statement places the idea as having originated while thinking about customer care. Comms pros know that tying a business change to consumer wants and needs is a good way to get skeptical audiences to accept uncomfortable changes.
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